Abraham, ancestor of Israel, left his Mesopotamian home of Ur and wandered in search of a new domicile at the age of 75. His wife Sarah was a decade his junior. They had no children of their own. God had promised them a future, but hadn’t said where.
Their feet took them to what is now Israel (Canaan in those times). Abraham and Sarah’s home became the first Chabad House in a country of merchants. Hospitality to all was their practice, guesting the first mitzvah in the future book of the nation of Israel.
In the last fortnight, as Israel, the country and its people, were still reeling from the brutality of the shock of kibbutzim laid waste, families obliterated and orphans taken hostage, the response was not to throw angry energy by blaming someone else for it all. Instead, the people of Israel set up a system of open homes to welcome and host those myriads who had become refugees in their own land. Evacuees from north and south embraced as if they had been known all their lives by people they had never met.
That, we see before our own eyes, is what Jews do with pain. Israel, in heeding the four millennia-old call to share one’s company and open up hospitality to any person, is the embodiment thereby of the blessing granted to Abram: that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him.
At this time it seems unlikely that the nations of the world are queuing up to seek our blessing. But God has said that this is the case. Inside of all the great sadness of tragic loss of life, Jewish and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian, is the spiritual imperative for Israel, as soon as possible, to clear the path for all the physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham to live in one land in enough harmony to respect the reason why we were intended by God to live there.
In the opening verse of this week’s parsha, Vayera, God reveals himself to Abraham in the plains of Mamre the Emorite. When we invite God and His mandate to seek harmonious living with our neighbours, even a son of a war-making, anti-Israelite nation may choose to become a covenanted friend of Abraham’s family, and all his descendants. At the end of their lives, as retold by the Midrashic tradition, Ishmael, the firstborn of Abraham, reconciled with Isaac at their father’s burial.
The prospect of reconciliation in the Holy Land is a long way off. Wounds are still laid wide open, mental suffering at an all-time high, trust shattered. Ultimately, however, the family of Abraham is destined to reunite.
May the hostages come home soon, the wounded be healed, the dead find final rest, and all our enemies be enlightened with an awareness to see Israel as the reason for world to be blessed.
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